I lived in Kashmir for a few years, ages ago. It was common in local Muslim community dinners to see 4 or 5 people sitting at a large common plate ("thali") laden with rice, with portions of accompaniments (rogan josh, rishta meat balls, veggies, etc.) placed on the rice in front of each diner (this was done by other people from serving vessels with ladels/spoons). The diners would eat with their hands straight from that large common rice plate, even sharing morsels of accompaniments with others.
For non-local invitees leery about this, they'd get them their own plates and serve them separately - no hang ups about this.
I'm told this is common in the Middle East as well, with even larger numbers of people at a plate (can't imagine the size of those plates then).
Re Chinese chopsticks eating, it's more common for people to serve themselves with their own chopsticks rather than eating straight from the same plate. SARS caused a good bit of self-questioning about this (as being conducive to spread of flu, hepatitis, etc), and it's more common now to see central serving chopsticks now - don't know if it's a short-lived change. Don't know what shortcoming you'd find in those, Vrindavan.